Bob Eadie, Administrator of the Monroe County Department of Health, told the Board of County Commissioners today that it was too soon to start having a discussion about easing social distancing restrictions in the Keys. He recommended that the Board wait until Monroe County has gone two weeks without seeing a new cases before moving in that direction.
Here are some highlights from Mr. Eadie’s presentation this afternoon [see full 35 minute video above]:
It’s not time to start thinking about modifying what we are doing:
Bob Eadie: My main message of the day: We are still continuing to have new cases reported everyday and I think our contact tracing is going well. There’s always a possibility of missing someone and also there is a probability of someone who is able to pass on the disease but not having any symptoms out there. So it’s not time to start thinking in any way about modifying what we are doing.
I think that we’re showing that we’ve been successful, if you look at other places in the State of Florida and the amount of spread that they’re having. We have a lot of cases but they’re not overwhelming. We don’t have a lot of hospitalizations at all – which is good. So, we just need to continue what we are doing.
People with lots of money and lots of time on their hands advocating for reopening the Keys:
Eadie: There’s a great deal of – I’m not sure exactly what word I would use – that people have been cooped up and in certain parts of the County there are people with lots of money and lots of time on their hands that are now trying to advocate that it is time for us to start modifying the stay-at-home orders that we’ve got and I don’t even think that we should be giving that any thought.
New antibody tests are limited; No infrastructure right now for mass testing:
Eadie: Before we would want to do anything along those lines we would need to do, I think, some really community-wide testing – probably using some kind of antibody test. But right now the Surgeon General, who is directing my actions in any way, is very reluctant to start pursuing that for a variety of reasons but there are also issues with what that test will really tell us other than the antibodies for the coronavirus will be present. But it doesn’t tell you when, it doesn’t tell you really how long ago, whether somebody is still infected or not.
So it a limited use for diagnosing someone and it is essentially limited use right now because we don’t have the infrastructure in the state to be able to do statewide or in our case Monroe County wide testing right now. The mass testing that is going on in Broward, Dade and Palm Beach County is really overloading all of the laboratory systems. And also a point you’ll notice with that is either those tests were done with support from the federal government for personnel along with the national guard. Those tests are now being – the point being the national guard and also contract employees are the ones that are actually doing the testing. I keep asking for more support and they are – the question that we’ve got is that the areas that are much more of a priority right now given the amount of the spread of the disease that they are having right now – which makes sense. All those counties are big counties geographically. They are also very populated and so you would indeed have very large areas with a good number of people that still have a great deal of transmission of the disease. So, we really need to get a handle on where we are.
Dade County visitors are a danger to the Keys until Dade gets COVID-19 spread under control:
Eadie: And then the other thing that I think has really got to be given a lot of thought before we do anything, is when we do relax what our directives would be and we allow people back into the Keys. Right now we see so much Dade County traffic. Until Dade is really under control, that’s one consideration as far as opening up the County.
National and International destination:
Eadie: And the other thing is that we are such a national and international destination that there really needs to be a real – the disease needs to be controlled both nationally and internationally before we go back to having no restrictions on movement in the Keys because everything we’ve done could be undone very easily and then I’m not sure where we’ll be. I think it would be a total disaster at that point that would make recovery extremely difficult.
When can we start talking about opening things back up?
Mayor Heather Carruthers: As I’ve been looking at this I think that there’s a number of stages – its not going to be tomorrow you would take a key and unlock a door. There would be different things that we would do. Just as we rolled things out scaling them up, we would scale them back. To me the first thing – the things that we would be considering is what kinds of relaxations could we allow for only our residents to perhaps enjoy only a little more freedom than they are right now. My question to you is what kind of markers are you looking for or would you want to see before we start having that discussion?
Eadie: Well if I could have my ideal, I would like to see two weeks of no cases period. Two weeks with no cases. Now that may be unrealistic. I don’t know whether it would be or not. Two weeks with no cases would be a real sign that we were on our way for no more transmission in the Keys.
Mass testing for the Keys on the horizon? Not really – due to lack of personnel:
Carruthers: What do you think the state is doing in terms of issues with more testing and rapid testing. Are you hearing any intelligence other than what we’re reading and hearing?
Eadie: It’s easier to say things are going to be done than it is to get some things done at times. The infrastructure of what’s needed is just not there. With luck it’s gonna be within a week – within 2 weeks maybe – you’ll have some of the rapid testing that’s online. Abbot has a system that’s been approved. I’m told that it’s an expensive system and all of the rapid testing that is available right now has to be done in conjunction with a healthcare setting, either with a hospital or a large clinic. So its really not available for what we need and we don’t have the personnel to really do the swabbing – the only way you find out if someone really has the disease is to do the nasal swabbing to pick up whether there is the virus there or not. And as you know we have got a plan set up but we don’t have the resources to do it… What we really need is dedicated personnel to do this testing… But it’s just those things need to be in place before we can move forward. In the meantime doing what we are doing is still the best course of action because there’s still a hell of lot of infection throughout the entire country. It’s still going up in a lot of places. New York may be coming down and in a lot of other places its still going up – especially in Florida – it’s still going up. I think a good indication right now is if we could go 14 days without any new infections we really ought to start thinking about what the next step is.
Is it realistic to think we will see a a period of no infections for 2 weeks? Yes:
Commissioner Craig Cates: You are thinking 2 weeks with no new infections would be ideal. So, do yo feel that after that there would be no more new cases down here or in other areas? Is that realistic or is that maybe a goal that we’ll never be able to reach as some doctors are saying that this virus will continue to be around for quite awhile. Do you recommend that we wait that long to open up local businesses?
Eadie: I think that’s something that could be achieved. I think that if we had that situation then we could look at what’s really going on. The thing to still remember is that we live through influenza every year. Influenza – there are more cases of influenza then there have been of Covid-19 now. There are 30,000 influenza deaths in the country every year. I think that if we go 14 days without infections here in Monroe County – yes – that is something that could indeed happen. And that’s what we really ought to be expecting. If we can’t get that far in – no I’m not going to give us a date – but I think if we can’t get down near that number and keep down near that number then that’s something that we need to revisit.
I understand how bad it is with the economics and if people can’t eat they’re not gonna be healthy, but you’ve got to take things a step at a time, Commissioner.
Cates: I totally understand your position… especially being the head of the Health Department, but you know — I don’t have the answers obviously — I’m just trying to figure this out and trying to come up with, with the other commissioners, and get out there – how soon we can start workin on trying to get some businesses open? Because a lot of people feel that we’ll never be completely without this disease at all and we’ve got to wait on vaccines and they’re talking about over a year. But I don’t want to scare the residents because a lot of the residents are scared and rightfully so with their health conditions they have. They’re worried about their family members and all and rightfully so and when we’re talking about lives and health its very important we make the right decisions and that’s why I want to try and clarify everything we possibly can.
The disease is going to dictate easing of restrictions, not any hopes that we have:
Eadie: And I agree with you – big time… It’s a dynamic situation… As soon as I feel like we’ve got data that we can start making decisions on, then I’ll be pushing for having those decisions made. I understand what the economy is. You just look around and it’s kind of eerie being in the Keys. There’s nobody here and we’ve got to change that as soon as we can. But the disease is gonna dictate that, not any hopes that we have. I think a year is – I think that within a year we’ll have a vaccine. And once you have a vaccine you can really get back to normal. But I don’t think you’ll have to wait a full year. I don’t think anybody else really feels that it’s got to be a full year before we’ll be able to get back to some sort of normality.